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Radar's A Look Back: Events that Changed the World

Updated: Feb 2

By Irene M ‘26, Nicholas Chung ‘24, and Jinane Ejjed ‘26, Radar Current Events Editors


2023: a year filled with the destruction, erosion of democracy, growth, advancement, and change that should not be quickly left in the past. To recap everything that happened in the last twelve months, Radar Current Events editors chronicled some of the biggest events, internationally and nationally. Recall and reflect on just a small portion of what occurred in our ever-changing world, and take the lessons learned into the new year.


INTERNATIONAL


JANUARY - US sends Ukraine tanks 


Ten months after the start of the Ukraine invasion, on January 24, the Biden administration announced its plans to send tanks to Ukraine, assisting the Ukrainian military with the resources necessary to win back territory taken by Russia. The move reverses the previous stance of the Biden administration, who had long refused to send tanks, and though the tanks likely won’t be on the battlefield any time soon, it still marks a turning point in the war. However, as of now, any Ukraine aid is stalled in Congress as the House speaker and Republicans oppose any deals, indicating weakening American global leadership in times of crisis.


FEBRUARY - Massive earthquakes in Turkey and Syria


A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, followed by another 7.5 quake and deadly aftershocks. The events killed more than 50,000 people and exacerbated the current situation in Syria, where a 10 year civil war has already brought destruction to the region. Millions of lives were affected in both countries and there is a long reconstruction process ahead to repair the damage done.


MARCH -  France raises retirement age


As inflation in Europe fell to its slowest pace in more than a year, French President Emmanuel Macron and the French government passed a reform over retirement on March 16, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, requiring that the retiree worked at least 43 years of their life. Protests against the legislation broke out, with labor unions calling for a suspension of the change, and over two-thirds of the French population against the reform. Macron attempted to divert attention from the retirement limits to a new water conservation plan, to little effect, and King Charles of England delayed his trip to France because of the violence.


APRIL - Sudan Civil War


Civil war in Sudan broke out on April 15 between rival armed factions in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. So far, the war has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 5.6 million, 80 percent of whom are internally displaced. Sudan was meant to become a democracy in 2023, however, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are battling over the countries land and resources in a struggle that has its foundation in the 2019 protests that resulted in the Sudanese military overthrowing longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. As the U.S., AU, and EU Call for Sudan cease-fire at the summit for Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African regional bloc, 


MAY - Coronation of King Charles


The Royal Coronation of King Charles of Britain was held on May 6 following the death of Queen Elizabeth in September of 2022. Guests included assorted European royalty, celebrities, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for the U.S. Though the monarchy holds little political power in the modern day, the spectacle and symbolic nature around them has continued for centuries. Charles visited Kenya, formerly a British colony, in November of 2023 in a move likely to make amends for British colonization though he did not officially apologize for the brutality on behalf of Britain during the colonial period and independence war. 


JUNE - Russia Coup


Russian private-military company, the Wagner Group, has long been used by the Russian government as a proxy group to support military coups and wars, but came under international scrutiny in more recent years for their involvement in the Russo-Ukrainian war. Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, frustrated with the slow pace and lack of action taken by Putin in the war, mutinied and attempted a coup against the Russian government on June 23. Troops flooded the streets on their way to Moscow and got extremely close, only 125 miles away, when a deal was struck in the late evening of June 24. The agreement between Putin and Prigozhin resulted in Prigozhin’s exile to Belarus but all Russian charges against him were dropped. Wagner members not involved in the coup were able to be absorbed under the Russian government, finally consolidating the two but making Wagner’s covert operations more vulnerable.


JULY - Niger Coup


Niger President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown in a coup on July 26, resulting in the installation of a military junta. Bazoum and his family were held hostage for weeks as General Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself leader of the transitional government, named The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland. The military accused Bazoum of failing to protect Niger from Islamist groups, though Bazoum was highly praised by the Western world for becoming an ally to them during his political time. Juntas running Mali and Burkina Faso threatened war in response to Niger’s coup.


AUGUST - Wagner Plane Crash


Following the attempted Russia coup by the Wagner Group, leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was sent to Belarus, an ally of Russia, in a deal struck the day after the coup began. Only a few months later, Prigozhin’s private plane crashed on August 23, killing everyone onboard, including Prigozhin. An early U.S. intelligence report concluded that the plane went down because of an intentional explosion, though Russia has strongly refuted the claim. Despite Prigozhin’s coup failure, the move marks an important turning point in Putin’s leadership, and perhaps the closest he’s come to losing power.


SEPTEMBER - Mexico decriminalizes abortions


After Mexico removed abortion as a federal crime in 2021, laws surrounding abortion have varied by state and throughout the country. However, in a landmark move, the Mexico Supreme Court ruled on September 7 to decriminalize abortion on all levels, saying that penalizing the procedure was unconstitutional. No person receiving an abortion or health worker aiding them will be punished, and all federal health services are now required to provide the procedure if requested. The decision trails movements across Latin America to legalize abortion, starkly different from the United States, who’s Supreme Court struck down long-standing precedent Roe v. Wade in 2022 and overturned federal protection of abortion. 


OCTOBER - Hamas attack on Israel and beginning of invasion of Palestine


On October 7, 2023, the terrorist organization Hamas attacked several parts of Israel and abducted around 250 people as hostages. Israel responded with a large-scale invasion of Palestine, resulting in even more deaths on both sides, with Palestinian deaths currently past 25,000 (according to the Gaza Health ministry, a figure which has proven generally accurate) and Israeli deaths above 1,200 civilian deaths. Bombings, missile attacks, and on-the-ground fighting have obliterated buildings and neighborhoods across Gaza, and many Palestinians have fled their homes amidst the violence. The international community’s response has been divided, however the UN states the “international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.”


NOVEMBER -  Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S


Just next door, in San Francisco, Xi Jinping and Biden met on the sidelines at the 2023 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Leaders’ Forum as U.S.- China tensions continued to simmer. While Biden advocated for committing to high standards in trade and partnerships that will benefit economies across the Pacific, Xi Jinping said that China was looking for stability during a moment of “turbulence and change” in the world, hinting to the country’s turbulent economic landscape, and pushed a win-win outcome between the two nations whose ties are inordinately thorny. Xi also signaled China would be sending the United States new giant pandas at the end of the first day of the summit in a desperate grab for rapport “between the Chinese and American peoples.”


DECEMBER - Javier Milei takes office as Argentina President


Javier Milei, a far-right, self described “anarcho-capitalist,” took office as the President of Argentina on December 10 with little political experience. His platform is based on Argentina’s rampant economic problems; the country’s inflation rate is charted at 211% and 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Throughout his campaign, Milei promised large solutions to the country’s debt and economy and already cut large swaths of the government early into his term. Yet it is still to be seen if the libertarian-media-persona turned leader can fix deep-rooted financial problems underlying the country.


NATIONAL


JANUARY - House Speaker debacle 


After fifteen rounds of voting and negotiations, on January 7, Republican congressman from California, Kevin McCarthy, gained the sufficient votes to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives. But it came at a cost. Among other things, McCarthy agreed with House Republicans to appoint members from the Freedom Caucus, the House’s far right group, to the House’s Rules Committee—an influential panel able to regulate how debates are conducted and how bills are passed. He also allowed a provision for any single member of the House to introduce a motion to oust the Speaker, a foreshadow of later events…



FEBRUARY - Chinese spy balloon 


A massive balloon of Chinese origin, carrying intelligence and surveillance equipment were spotted floating across the US. The Chinese government hand waved it as a weather balloon which drifted off course, while the US considered it a breach of sovereignty. Indeed, Biden ordered the US military to shoot down balloons over South Carolina a week later, a move which many Americans consider to have come too late. Following the Chips and Science Act in August of 2022, which boosted US semiconductor production to compete with China and Speaker Nancy Pelolsi’s visit to Taiwan in the same month, the most high-ranking US government official to visit Taiwan in nearly 25 years, this balloon incident somewhat crystallized the growing tensions between the two global superpowers.


MARCH - Trump charged for hush money case


Trump was charged on 34 counts by the Office of the Manhattan’s District Attorney for hush-money payments to cover a sex scandal during the 2016 campaign. The Former President was charged with falsifying Trump organization business records of payments made to Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, for payments made to Stormy Daniels. Trial is set to begin on March 25, 2024. 


APRIL - The Tennessee Three expulsion


The Tennessee Three, Democratic representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson, faced expulsion after joining a protest on the Tennessee House floor when three adults and three 9-year-olds were killed in a shooting at a private school. Two of the Tennessee Three, Jones and Pearson, were expelled from the House on April 6, stripping the constituents in the largely black and Democratic areas held by Jones and Pearson of representation and calling attention to the almost absolute control of Tennessee republicans. 


MAY - Hollywood strike begins: a battle against AI


Hollywood scriptwriters rallied at Pickett Lines in May, many through the Writers Guild of America for higher wages among other grievances. However, the strike gradually evolved into a rallying cry over the use of AI in Hollywood; following the explosion of Chat GPT and a statement made by ChatGPT founder Sam Altman referring to the writing of ‘Game of Thrones,’ Hollywood writers concerns over the proliferation of AI in the entertainment industry became the center point in headlines of the strike. 


JUNE - Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action and student loan forgiveness bill


In a monumental historical decision, the Supreme Court gutted affirmative action, ending race-conscious admissions at public and private universities. The decision was made along ideological lines, with the Court’s six conservative Justices voting in the majority to strike down affirmative action, reversing decades of precedent upheld by narrow majorities in the Supreme Court. In his concurring opinion, Chief Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the decision to reverse affirmative action “sees the universities' admissions policies for what they are: rudderless, race-based preferences. ... Those policies fly in the face of our colorblind Constitution."


On a separate matter, the Supreme Court also blocked Biden’s bailout package for student loans which would have delivered 20,000 to millions of Americans still trying to pay-off debts, and eliminating 430 billion federal student loan debt. Like the affirmative action case, this case was also decided on a 6-3 vote with the conservative supermajority voting to block the plan. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Roberts stated that “The question here is not whether something should be done; it is who has the authority to do it,” arguing that Biden needs authorization from Congress in order to institute this bailout. 



JULY - Elon Musk turns Twitter into X


Following a controversial move to acquire the social media company, Twitter, in October of 2022, Elon Musk rebranded the company as “X.” Elon Musk said that the decision was more than just to change the name, but a representation of his plan to transform the platform into an “everything app” which will allow users to post messages, audio, videos, make payments, and manage financials. Elon Musk also cited protecting  the freedom of free speech as an incentive to rebrand and acquire Twitter, seemingly a rebuttal of the social media company’s censorship of certain accounts and flagging of false news. 


AUGUST - Rampant wildfires in Maui


A series of wildfires erupted in the state of Hawaii, predominantly on the island of Maui. THe powerful, wind-driven fires killed at least 100 people, prompted mass evacuations, and destroyed 2,200 buildings constituting nearly six billion in damages. On August 8, an emergency declaration was signed, activating the Hawaii National Guard and state general revenue funds for the relief of damages caused by the fires. On August 9, a state of emergency was declared for the entire state and on August 10, President Biden issued a federal major disaster declaration, making federal funding available for recovery efforts in the affected areas. The US Navy Third Fleet, the US Coast Guard, search and rescue teams from several states, and FEMA resources were all deployed in the recovery effort. 


SEPTEMBER - Biden Impeachment Inquiry begins


Now former Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, announced on September 12th that he would be directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, alleging that he and his family used the Biden name for self-profit….



OCTOBER - House Speaker McCarthy voted out and replaced by Mike Johnson


Republican congressmen, Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the House Speakership on October 3rd, 2023, following a motion to remove the Speaker introduced in the House by Matt Gaetz of Florida. In this vote, 8 House Republicans from the far-right Freedom Caucus, led by Matt Gaetz, joined House Democrats in voting to remove McCarthy. The move was instigated over anger from members of the GOP over a bill cut by McCarthy with Democrats to avoid shutdown of the federal government. This constituted the first time a House Speaker has been voted from the United States Congress.


NOVEMBER - Sam Bankman-Fried convicted


Once known as the “King of Crypto,” Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO and founder of Futures Exchange (FTX),  has had a long fall from grace. On November 2, he was found guilty by a jury in New York on seven counts of fraud and money laundering. Once valued at 32 billion, FTX went bankrupt in November of the previous year, and eight billion worth of customer funds were found missing. He was found guilty of lying to investors and lenders and stealing billions from FTX, catalyzing its collapse. Three of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s former close friends and colleagues, including his ex-girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him in hopes of reducing their own sentences. Mr. Bankman-Fried faces a maximum of 110 years of prison time, with sentencing set for a later date.


DECEMBER - Representative George Santos expelled


On December 1, New York Republican representative George Santos was expelled from the House of Representatives in a historic move, making him the sixth person ever expelled from the House and the third representative expelled since the Civil War. Santos has a 23-count federal indictment against him and announced he would not seek re-election. Through his political career, Santos told numerous lies about campaign funds, family background, personal history, spending purchases, and more, all of which culminated in his expulsion.


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